Monday, August 2, 2021

Sabotaging Trail Deal Was No Way to Protect the Adirondacks 

snowmobile trail

By Brian Wells 

This is a story that should have had a happy ending. 

A story of five Adirondack towns working with state government and environmental non-profits on an agreement to expand the taxpayer-owned Forest Preserve, improve public recreation and bring new economic growth to the area. 

The Community Connector Trails agreement would have helped turn the page on decades of Adirondack Region job losses brought on by industry disinvestment and Forest Preserve expansion, and established a model for the type of common-sense, compromise solutions needed for many problems confronting the Adirondack Park. 

Instead, it’s a sad story of misplaced trust and lost opportunity, ending with the towns and the people who live there getting left out in the cold. 

In 2012, the town boards of Indian Lake, Long Lake, Minerva, Newcomb and North Hudson were asked to approve the state’s plan to buy nearly 70,000 acres of private timberlands, stretching across the five towns. A land deal of that scale would have huge implications for the future of any community, so state law rightfully gives the affected towns veto power. 

As the supervisor of one of those towns, I can tell you none of us liked the idea of losing more private land, but we saw an opportunity to get something back for the hard-working residents we serve. Together with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and two of the environmental groups championing the purchase – the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club – we came up with an agreement we could all live with: 

The towns would go along with the state’s plan to take these working forests out of production and close nearly 50 miles of existing trails in the heart of the Forest Preserve to motorized use. In exchange, we were promised a network of Class II Community Connector trails – 27 miles of new routes for snowmobilers, horseback riders, hikers, bikers, and skiers, designed to tie our communities together and bring much-needed tourism business to the shops, restaurants and hotels now at the center of our rural economy. Not only would this benefit the towns, it would benefit the Forest Preserve by relocating the trail network to the periphery of the Preserve, closer to developed areas and out of more remote environs. 

Enter the antagonists of our story. With the Finch lands securely in state ownership, and work on the trails underway, the advocacy group Protect the Adirondacks brought a lawsuit to kill the project. This was no big surprise, coming from a group whose mission seems to be to undermine the economic viability of Adirondack communities and keep the public off publicly owned lands. The real gut punch, though, came when we saw who else was pushing the lawsuit — the very same Adirondack Council that had looked us in the eye and said we had a deal. 

The groups argued that the project was unconstitutional because it required the removal of too much “timber” from the Forest Preserve. In making their case, they argued that the state’s century-old definition of “timber” as trees measuring at least three inches in diameter at breast height should be disregarded and trees of any size, including newly emerged seedlings, should be counted. 

Flash forward to May 2021. After a roller-coaster ride of lower court decisions, the New York State Court of Appeals, by a vote of 4-2, ruled in favor of Protect on Constitutional grounds – pulling the plug on a project the Court itself acknowledged would have provided a net benefit to the Preserve. 

I tell this story knowing full well that we can’t undo the court’s decision. But I do hope it will spur some reflection from those who care about the future of the Adirondacks. 

Ask yourself: 

Who wins when self-professed “environmental” groups sabotage a plan that would have provided a net benefit to the Forest Preserve, the people who come to enjoy it, and those of us who live and work here? Who benefits when a group tears up a good-faith agreement, but only after they got everything they wanted? Why should towns allow the creation of new “Wilderness” areas within their borders when it means giving up any future hope of economic activity on those lands? It’s hard to believe that the people who support these groups truly want their hard-earned dollars used in this divisive and punitive way. 

As for the five towns, we kept our word and got the short end of the stick. But we thank DEC for negotiating in good faith and aggressively defending the project in court. We also thank the Adirondack Mountain Club for honorably standing by our agreement. 

Going forward, we’ll pick ourselves up and get back to doing all we can to b prosperous communities where people can live and work and visit. That’s what people who truly care about protecting the Adirondacks do. 

Brian Wells is the supervisor of the Town of Indian Lake in Hamilton County. 

Photo: 12 ft. wide snowmobile connector bridge on a trail to Lake Harris, Town of Newcomb, Adirondack file photo

Editor’s note: Peter Bauer’s reaction to this commentary can be found here.

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

69 Responses

  1. Eric says:

    This whole process was painful to watch over the last few years. You’re spot on in that the group “Protect the Adirondacks” has, as it’s end goal, to keep the public entirely off of public lands. People really need to stop giving them money.

  2. Shane M Sloan says:

    I think we’ve discovered a new resource; salt. Let this be a lesson. Where there is an agenda and money is involved, trust will no longer be. Just as with the ACR project, precedent set in straying from the park rules can and will always be a bad thing for the park.

  3. Lee Keet says:

    I thought the court’s ruling was about scale of the timber removal, not about invalidating existing trails. I assume that the DEC will continue to build and maintain the narrower foot and horse trails as well as the existing snowmobile trails, and I also assume that a more modest (than ten-foot wide) connector trail would pass muster.

    The argument for wide, high speed lanes is not, I think, what the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Council, and others were agreeing to, nor are highway-like trails required to achieve the benefits that connector trails will provide.

    The DEC now must come forward with a new proposal that achieves the right balance under Article 14. I encourage the parties to work together to meet that goal and avoid another divisive court battle.

    • Pete says:

      The ANC and AC knew full well what DEC constructed trails on forest preserve land would be like, because the DEC Adirondack snowmobile trail plan was published and in effect years before the latest land acquisitions and the DEC has built other trails previous to this.

      Groups like the ANC, AC, Protect that Adirondacks have been shown once again to be totally disingenuous with regard to any “compromise” or commitment they make regarding land acquisition. The DEC also made compromises to placate the environmental groups when they wrote the snowmobile trail plan. These groups will not be satisfied unless they manage to get the entire forest preserve closed to any motorized use. They can just not be trusted to stick to any agreement or compromise they make.

      “High speed lanes” is an incorrect description. The speed limit on state land is 25MPH. Do people go faster than that? Yes, but generally not that much on the real woods trails.

      You can not safely go very fast on a 8 or 9 foot wide trail with two-way traffic and especially not with limited sight distance. None of these trails are straight, in fact the DEC guidelines for trail construction are to purposely not have any long straight runs.

      The fact is that a Community Connector trail really can not be narrower than 9 feet and be safe no matter what speed people are going. It is also unreasonable to expect people poke along at 10MPH (as would be necessary on an extremely narrow trail) when they are touring relatively long distances between towns.

      The amount of “tree cutting” to make the few miles of trail needed to complete community connector routes is absolutely insignificant when viewed in the context of the entire amount of forest preserve land. The environmental impact is virtually zero. However, the economic benefit to the towns is very significant.

      • Alfred Hadinger says:

        I am in my 60s and have driven the existing community connector snowmobile trails. They are anything but high speed, wide trails. We are not talking about the Moose River Plains here. Driving them takes skill and stamina. As snowmobiles are about four feet wide, a trail needs to be at least 9-10 feet to allow for safe passing. Twelve feet widths would hardly be a highway.
        Supervisor Wells makes the same correct, well-thought observations he did at the hearing in Raquette Lake several winters ago at which I also spoke. There is a complete lack of balance or compromise on the part of the environmental crowd, as evidenced by Peter Bauer’s all or nothing positions and the hypocrisy of the Adirondack Council. Shame on them and their minions. He should change his organization’s name to “Empty The Adirondacks.”
        There may come a day when some of these zealots are stuck in a river, lake or on a mountain and there aren’t any local emergency responders to come to their aid, unless they expect the DEC to always whiz in with a rescue squad or a (environmentally unfriendly) helicopter after calling in on their satellite phones. (Cell towers are verboten, too.)
        Then who will they blame? Maybe themselves? Doubtful.

        • Meredith says:

          It would be helpful to know what your “balance” point is? How far are you willing to go to protect “forever wild”?

          • Pete says:

            “Forever wild” is very well protected. The objective of Article 14 was to create a “forest preserve” to protect from wholesale logging. It has done that very well. No logging or development has occurred on millions of acres of land. A few snowmobile or any other trails are insignificant. The objective of Article 14 was not to prevent reasonable use and access by the public. It was not to create some “wilderness” untouched by man. The word is never used in Article 14.

            When Article 14 was written, gasoline engines and automobiles existed but were a new thing. The primary mode of “personal’ transportation was by horse. Since people were aware of these noisy smoky gasoline powered vehicles, Article 14 could have specifically prohibited the intrusion of these non-natural vehicles, but there was no mention.

          • Alfred Hadinger says:

            Good question. It would depend on the particular situation. In this case, the elimination of some snowmobile trails in exchange for others adjacent to highway corridors is a win for less fragmented forest lands. It would have allowed riders to support the towns and businesses and intrude less in the interior. This, I believe, is a balanced solution.

            Balanced positions also take into consideration the economic needs of the chronically poor hamlets of the Adirondacks. Unlike the American West, these settlements and resource extraction businesses existed before the park was created. Consideration needs to be given to allowing a reasonable level of viability or there won’t be goods or services available for visitors. The only grocery store in Long Lake operates for 3 months of the year. The grocery store in Indian Lake we patronized faithfully for years has been closed for decades.

            These are not signs of healthy communities. Those of us who made our livings outside the park and are lucky enough to be able to afford a camp here, need to walk in the shoes of the locals and TRULY understand what they need to sustain their communities that we know and appreciate. Lawsuits to stop the cutting of 3” caliper saplings in the name of forest preservation while commercial logging still exists demonstrates a selfish lack of caring for others, and balance.

  4. Brent says:

    Thanks for sharing. Though provoking, for sure.

    • Steve B. says:

      A “good faith agreement” that many knew was unconstitutional at the start,. Sorry, but the winners in this is are the citizens of the State of NY who get their forest preserve, preserved. Any attempt to state that the loss of these trails is costing jobs in Minerva, Newcomb, Long Lake, is just ludicrous at best. It was a pipe dream. The DEC and APA needed to be taught yet another lesson that they cannot break the law and get away with it.

      • Tim says:

        No one knew it was “unconstitutional from the start”. Peter Bauer had to find some city judges to redefine the word “timber” in order to make it unconstitutional.

  5. nathan says:

    Mr. Wells thank you for the very enlightening article..didnt know that the land was newly aquired and that it was 70,000 acres of finch…the agreement was made for the trails as part of purchase and should have been honored. sadly adirondacks is being poorly run and special interest groups are doing their best to ruin the economy for those living there, soon it will be only rich who can afford to live here. but thats ok work on bringing more people to live on a poor economy.

    • Lou says:

      Good riddance. If you can’t afford to live there then leave. These are basic economic principles at play and take effect everywhere. I can’t afford to live in the place I grew up and so I have to move on. Let’s not bend the rules and degrade the environment to create a handful of crappy jobs, at best.

  6. Al West says:

    Well presented.My opinion is that the Adirondack Council and the Protect The Adirondacks groups are very extreme radical groups with their true mission is to keep the public off of forest preserve lands.. It appears to me that every time new lands, such as Boreas Ponds, or the Finch Pruyn lands are acquired these groups start hammering to have these lands classified as Wilderness, the most prohibitive for public use.There seems to be no regard for the native people, only to shove them aside.
    The Adirondack Preserve is a true treasure, but it should be managed carefully, which it is not. I’m all for keeping the big developers out, but a lot of the original preservationist views are outdated and should be updated. Just my two cents.

  7. Ben says:

    I wonder if there are ANY old logging roads the DEC/APA should now look to open for snowmobiling & hiking, or horseback riding. The goal was to get everyone out of the interior, now we should go for it all. If it is a old road or old trail that was slated to be closed with these new connector trails, we should OPEN THEM ALL BACK UP! Upgrade them & have at it!
    Plus the DEC/APA should not approve any new trails requiring any tree cutting, nor allow any maintenance which requires tree cutting!

    • Pete says:

      “Plus the DEC/APA should not approve any new trails requiring any tree cutting, nor allow any maintenance which requires tree cutting!” If this applies to snowmobile trails then it applies to any trail including hiking trails, and hiking trailhead parking are improvements, etc.

  8. James M Schaefer says:

    Brian, those wide trails you advocate for will allow for a wintertime invasion of many, many motorized sleds making their ear shattering loud racket capable of traveling at breathtakingly fast speed. Noise and killer speed. How in the world does that spell Adirondack to you?

    We New Yorkers are so fortunate to have a constitutionally protected wilderness without the contemporary racket and inherent danger to life and limb of the snowmobile sport enthusiasts. The Adirondacks are a special place that can easily be wrecked — little by little through self-serving ideas like the compact your group thought might be an economic benefit.

    I for one am happy the courts said “Not so fast!”

  9. Boreas says:

    I certainly do not blame the Towns involved for feeling like they were scammed. They bargained in good faith with DEC and Albany, but unfortunately not NY citizens paying the tab. These “agreements” made prior to the purchase, that NYS taxpayers had NO say in, was the first shaky layer of a house of cards. What purpose does it serve to condemn and demonize any individual or organization exercising their rights in court to knock down that house of cards?

    Many questions come to mind; What due diligence was done PRIOR to the purchase ensuring these trails would indeed be constitutional? Was a constitutional amendment considered? None of the participants in the agreement foresaw a legal challenge? Shouldn’t NYS taxpayers have a say in how the land they were purchasing was to be used? Expanding snowmobile usage in the FP should be approved simply because it helps the Towns involved – despite snowmobiles not being formally mentioned in the Constitution to begin with? So many questions…

    I personally don’t see the court ruling as the end to obtaining connector trails, but it certainly halted construction for the short term. NYCO and DEC hammered through a constitutional amendment in a relatively short period of time. Is it impossible to see an amendment specifically dealing with the future of snowmobile usage and subsequent trail creation being put forth to the voters? Let the taxpayers decide the issue, not the courts, Albany, DEC, and the Towns. Not one of those entities now OWN the land in question. If this type of activity is desired in the FP, then start with a solid foundation based on an amendment specifically allowing it, otherwise, I see the issue mired in lawsuits forever.

  10. Alex C. says:

    Um seems like the only thing you see is economic development which is not always good. Keep the forest where they are. There is no need to tear down trees so a business can sell overpriced hot dogs.

  11. Dan says:

    Bottom line: leaders of Adirondack towns will be gun-shy going forward when it comes to land acquisitions made with EPF funds requiring their approval. Just wait and see.

    • Mary says:

      Yes and a private owner won’t allow the snow mobile trails .. so end result is the same

  12. Todd Eastman says:

    Poor understanding of the state constitution by the towns was the root of this issue.

  13. Steve Gloo says:

    There was only one group of winners in this mess, and that was the lawyers and law firms involved. State taxpayers paid top dollar for lands the phony “ environmentalists” will keep them off of.
    The real residents, business owners and regular folks in the Adirondacks must come to understand that they turned their future over to a few loud, deep pocketed, outspoken individuals and groups who have agendas that don’t include them.

  14. Kathryn Maguire says:

    Why wasn’t a statewide vote held? It would have passed.

    Follow the procedures.

  15. Randy says:

    Shame… plenty of room for these trails. Oh well, thanks to the rich environmentalists that sit around with nothing better to do than complain. They lost my support when one of them whined about trail runners. I love how they expect to sit on a mountain top and have it only for themselves… might not even be able to do that in Tibet.

  16. Keith R Eygnor says:

    It pains me to see such opposition to the land becoming public and connecting these towns. After all, at one time the land belonged to the Indians and sadly it was taken from them. To open more up,to the public, and making it part of the park, is a gesture in the right direction. Although the Indians are not around to appreciate that the land is given back to the public to enjoy, we also should think of how it would improve our eco system, as well. The forest would be protected and looked after, as well as enjoyed. Too many of our lands are being destroyed, by either careless people leaving trash or cutting down live trees. Our heritage is at stake. Ask yourselves, is there going to be a Adirondack park in years to come for others to enjoy or is it going to be destroyed, from not being able to maintain or bought up as private land. From reading this article, saddens me, to think that such an awesome agreement was made, only for our courts, not caring or thinking of the future that could have boosted the economy at the same time preserving our park land by adding to it. It’s a no brainer, it would have been a win- win deal. This is our court system at work for the benefit of us? “For the people, by the people”.?

  17. Mary says:

    The nysdec is part of ny state government. What they do in other areas of the state may not work in the adirondacks.

    It is time to face up to climate change. Has the snowmobiling improved with new trails? The lack of snowfall that is consistent november – march is more of a problem than the trails.

    The same can be said of the ACR- who wants to invest in a development based on a ski area where the snowfall cannot be depended on.

    These are seasonal industries even in a good year.

    Don’t blame the snowmobile connectors for economic problems in the park.

    If you want development, pressure for more hotels and restaurants in towns like saranac lake, tupper lake. If there are more places to eat and sleep maybe more people will be inclined to stay over and visit.

    The best thing to happen in tupper lake is a brewery with food and a motel next door. And it does not disturb a forest preserve. It is located next to the rail trail – soon to be open and a big attraction.
    This trail will be a year round attraction. (I have no connection to brewery)

    No one mentioned the lack of housing hurting the park residents. There are many homes that could be remodeled. There appears to be few people to do the work required. There is a shortage of workers and housing.

    Lack of snow mobile connector trails are not killing the economy in the adirondacks.

    If snowmobiling is not as attractive as it once was, it is most likely not because of the lack of trails that are two car lanes wide.

    I am surprised no one has thought to open a small casino in saranac lake… just a thought. Lakeside casino…. Not much impact to forest preserve if kept to a town.

    I am not a snowmobiler or a downhill skier, but if i was i might consider those for the month of january only.

  18. Michael Caffrey says:

    Please recognize that this six million acre gift is a precious jewel to be safeguarded and gently caressed; to be honored by everyone who touches it. It was with remarkable foresight that New Yorkers covenanted that portions of this sacred land be kept forever wild. Their prescience is our good fortune. The die was cast on the economic fortunes of the Adirondacks long ago. This lower heaven is our engine and it must be preserved at all costs- like it or not we must adapt and accept. I choose not to cast my lot with those who would “carry their God to market, if they could get anything for him”.

  19. Vanessa B says:

    A few thoughts on this fine morning. First, this was a good perspective and I respect the author for presenting it. Really. You can probably guess that I’m about to disagree with it, but it is always fair to debate in good faith. I’m gonna choose to waltz right past the part of this essay that misunderstands (at best, kinda insinuates at worse) the motives of environmental groups. That’s bad faith, but like other commenters, I understand why this guy is POed.

    I will also refrain from dwelling too much on the knee jerk reaction. The one that really really makes me struggle to remain good faith with folks that you’ll pardon I assume are politically conservative. Most conservatives are nothing short of fanatical about “THE CONSTITUTION” – they do their damnedest to smack us over the head with it on issues that they care about. Do I like that the courts have thus far interpreted the 2nd amendment to allow people to own weapons of war like AR-15s? Does nearly everyone of my generation have trauma related to code c drills? Do I know friends who have frickin died as teenagers, other friends who should have had a strong court order take away their firearm, their spouse’s or relative’s firearm before they or said spouse or relative shot themselves or others?

    Yeah, of course I do. So it gets a little, let’s say, irritating, to hear the same people who over-and-over again completely dismiss, lie about, and steamroll the trauma of a whole generation expect my sympathy when THE CONSTITUTION (NY edition, anyway) has a provision with which they disagree. I wouldn’t be so upset with this, except that one side of the aisle really weaponizes it to shamelessly manipulate people “they’re coming for your guns”, etc.

    But of course that’s a digression, so in good faith let’s waltz right past my personal baggage and debate the true salient point the author makes.

    Namely: would the connector trails in question really have revitalized the economies of the towns in question? Does having more private land do so? Obviously that was the towns’ thinking and the promise that they feel has been broken. Let’s break down the two questions separately.

    The connector trails? Wellllllll – that’s super iffy, if we’re honest. I believe the goal with snowmobiles is to attract tourists? But elsewhere many towns complain lately of all the negative elements of tourism. Local homeowners in Indian Lake might not actually like it too much in the case of a completed trail where every second house on the block turns into an AirBnB. That’s what’s happening everywhere else. Revenue from tourism doesn’t always directly go back into a town. Stuff like property tax does, and I am not convinced that conveniences like the ability to snowmobile or access a gas station are gonna create the type of property taxes that make a big dent in the local budget or be a true economic game changer.

    Does stuff like “an easier way to get to a gas station” make a difference for locals? For sure, but I’m not convinced that snowmobile trails are the only way to innovate there. Again, these are rural towns where people either choose to or are stuck living with less modern conveniences. I bet there are a LOT of modern ways to help locals – electric vehicle infrastructure springs to mind. Get these folks some badass electric Ford Lightnings, which can power your house for 3 days on a charge! Induction stove tops, heat pumps – there are all sorts of ideas if we let go of fossil fuel infrastructure as necessary, which we’ll need to do anyway. Hec, pardon the flippant but relevant point of the silliness of building a snowmobile highway when in 30-40 years, the ADKs won’t be cold enough to have snowpack all winter.

    So when scrutinized, I don’t think the “connectors as economic lifeline” argument holds up.

    But what about “private land ownership is better for the economy than public land ownership?” This notion has been proven true in a lot of ways, and the tension local towns feel being adjacent to so much state owned land is absolutely real. That this whole deal was unconstitutional is irrelevant to the fact that yes, as long as we have an economy that exploits natural resources, some people will make their living that way.

    But the reason people like “forever wild” so much is because it was so ahead of its time for what we understand in the modern era about sustainability and the environment in general. The resource-extraction economy has to end eventually. This is a biological phenomenon that doesn’t care about human needs or politics. We will either use up all of the resources and trash the ecosystems that support them, eventually killing ourselves, or we will learn to live truly sustainably – a goal that pretty much none of humanity has accomplished yet.

    The ADKs are at the bleeding edge of what is actually a very, very consequential question for humanity. They’re at the bleeding edge because it’s a rare situation where the balance of power is in favor of the state, which is super rare to see anywhere in this country. And further, most of the population of NY *likes* the protections the state provides. The much-maligned environmentalist groups wouldn’t raise all of their money – they’re not getting it all from rich people, btw, but rather people like me – if the idea of forever wild wasn’t popular.

    I get that little towns are on the short end of the stick so far, but this can change without burning up the good provisions of the NY constitution. Again, there are all sorts of ideas here. You can innovate or stay irrelevant to the phenomena of the world around you. There are other ways to revitalize these small towns, there really are. Some ways absolutely involve tourism, but other ways involve using the state to incentivize keeping up with the times, instead of using the state to keep with old fashioned, dying economic endeavors like resource extraction.

    If you’re still with me after this novel of a comment, kudos! I wanted to give the author a robust reply for his effort in writing this. The short of it: there are solutions to what ails these towns, but snowmobile trails really ain’t it. We can do better for the folks that live there and we should.

    • Susan says:

      I am wondering if Vanessa could explain how mid-west farmers are going to feed our nation, and the world, without farm equipment run on fossil fuels. There is not enough wind/ solar/ hydro energy in the entire country to produce the loaf of bread, pound of hamburger, quart of milk or tofu curd that we pick off the grocery shelf.

      • Vanessa B says:

        I could write another novel-length comment on response to this, but let’s spare everyone and summarize as: electrification of farm equipment just like the electrification of cars is finally (belatedly) becoming a thing. If we can build a battery powered Tesla, Ford F-150 or Hummer (!! Yes, I just saw an online review for the electric Hummer) we can build a battery powered tractor. Further automation will reduce the number of tractors we even need as well. There is robust discussion to be had regarding battery power, and also how we’re gonna store all of the energy needed on the grid in the first place, and ALSO how to make the electric industry itself sustainable…

        …but I’m not so sure you’re interested in any of that. It’s safe to say that big money is invested in solving all of these problems, and progress is happening faster than ever. If government phased out fossil fuel subsidies and helped these industries in the way it props up dying ones like fossil fuels, we’d get there even faster. Talk about market manipulation, amirite? … :/

    • Zephyr says:

      Towns in the park are in far better economic condition than they were several decades ago, and they are doing better than many other rural areas. It will be interesting to see what the 2020 Census reveals.

      • Pete says:

        Most small towns are not better off economically. While there might be some new businesses, many have been lost. For example, in the Lake Pleasant/Speculator area, there used to be 4 gas stations, a pharmacy, bowling alley, movie theater, auto dealership, supermarket in addition to the very good general store, etc. All gone with one gas station/convenience store to replace 4. There are way fewer families with kids and working-age adults. At least 4 schools have closed due to declining enrollment including Raquette Lake and Piseco… This is not economic success by any measure.

        • Zephyr says:

          I’m talking about the region. We can both pick and choose communities to look at. Compare Lake Placid today to 30 years ago. Or Saranac Lake. Or Warrensburg. Or Tupper Lake. I just drove through North Creek and noticed the big gas stations are brand new looking. Something is paying for those stations to be upgraded. Yes, the demographic is aging and the schools are closing, but the overall economic climate is far superior to decades ago when you could travel from the Northway to Lake Placid in the winter and almost every business was closed all winter long. Read the report referenced above.

          • Vanessa B says:

            I agree that growth has been selective. And I think the author of this article would disagree, but IMO the blame doesn’t entirely rest on large scale economic forces. Different towns have chosen to take different tacks in embracing modernity and the economy that is available. Apologies, but this is another thing that bugs me about conservatives: you all want lots of competition except when you suddenly lose a competition. Then it’s always big government’s fault and “personal responsibility” gets chucked out the window. There is town leadership in the ADKs that seems to positively lose it when some of us suggest even slightly (to the town) unpalatable solutions.

            For a triggering example (here we go), and this isn’t a nice opinion, but – there are towns where I really, really feel the attitude is that the town would rather defend a resident’s right to say, fly a confederate flag, instead of dealing with the real message that this sends to the 80% of the potential pool of productive visitors and residents that are uncomfortable symbol. They don’t want our money if it means having a tough conversation with a neighbor about the message that symbol sends in 2021.

            Free speech is constitutionally protected – and I strongly believe and support this part of the constitution. But that doesn’t mean you also get to complain about “big government” when no one wants to live next to the guy espousing hate speech. When no one wants to spend any dollars investing in a town that doesn’t seem to care.

    • Pat Smith says:

      Vanessa, Yours is not the only generation to go through trauma. What about the effect WW2, Korea and Vietnam had on our country and veterans? How about growing up during the cold war with bomb drills and fall out shelters in the back yard? Each generation has its own truths and traumas to overcome.

      • Vanessa B says:

        Government did a lot to protect people in all of those situations, as did ordinary people – government protected the country and people protected each other.

        Whereas, who was there to protect my friend who is an alumna of Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High, or all of her friends that died at 16 for literally nothing? No war, no great political conflict, kids sitting at their desks with the very simple goal of getting an education. The law and society failed her. Half of society allows for America having more dead grade school students every year so that a few people can keep impractical, war-grade weapons that have nothing to do with self-defense or recreation. The vast majority of the real debate on that topic isn’t even about the 2nd amendment, but as noted, some folks use the 2nd amendment as a cudgel to shut down any discussion.

        The only reason I brought up that example is that I am not questioning the technical validity of the law here. I want to change the law rather than dwell on its flaws.

        For the discussion at hand: I am not so sure these small towns are super interested in changing the NY constitution. As noted, a constitutional amendment could have been sought in this case. (Still can be, perhaps?) The old narrative of “this is all the rich environmentalists’ fault” obscures the real situation, that preserving forest land is popular, and that we need to think of and incentivize new ways for these towns to help their economies.

      • Vanessa B says:

        Actually, amend my about comment: government did NOT protect most people during Vietnam. Government messed that one up pretty badly in fact. Lol I would have to turn in my granola crunching hippie creds without this correction 😉

        • Pat Smith says:

          Just as they botched every step that led up to the tragedy at MSDH. Psychiatrists recommend Cruz be involuntary admitted to a treatment center in 2013. From that time he had numerous encounters with law enforcement. How was this missed when he passed a background check in 2017? Not to mention the FBI was alerted in early January 2018 that he was acting erratically but failed to act on the information.

    • Mary says:

      I likes your comment. Thoughtful essay.

      And you are right about the snowmobile connectors will not be much of an impact on the economy. nysdec can redo their plans to make them legal under ny constitution.

      There are plenty of snowmobile trails. The trouble has been – the ones going over water are not safe anymore due to changes in the weather. So nysdec is trying to do more trails in the forest.. and less on water.

      There are lots of places to snowmobile in ny state

    • Mary says:

      I like your comment. Thoughtful essay.

      And you are right about the snowmobile connectors will not be much of an impact on the economy. nysdec can redo their plans to make them legal under ny constitution.

      There are plenty of snowmobile trails. The trouble has been – the ones going over water are not safe anymore due to changes in the weather. So nysdec is trying to do more trails in the forest.. and less on water.

      There are lots of places to snowmobile in ny state

  20. Rob Bick says:

    Owning property in the northern Adirondacks, we have less issue with snowmobiles than an Old Forge/Central region would, but the volume is increasing due to lack of snow in other areas.

    What I don’t fully grasp is the magnitude of the logging operations in the area. Large, heavy duty logging equipment, leaving massive ruts in the woods, tractor trailers and the accompanying gravel highways wide enough so two can pass and in some instances built up many feet over the existing terrain, creating drainage gullies where there were none, rerouting forest streams etc. This is accepted practice for economic reasons, but a snowmobile trail is not. Come on folks…get real here. Pellets for you wood stoves come at a high cost to the wilderness. Take a look at some of these logging operations. Snowmobile tracks, they melt in the spring. Log skidder ruts last an eternity.
    There is enough room in these 6 million acres for both types of economic viability.

    • Randy says:

      Finally…a comment by someone smart. Thank you for your input.

    • Zephyr says:

      A lot of us are against the logging operations you describe too. I’m not convinced by the argument that because one bad thing is allowed we should allow all bad things. There are already thousands of miles of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks.

  21. Maggie Jihan says:

    As a newcomer here, were I not already somewhat knowledgeable about the issues in question (from other places I’ve lived), I might have been fooled by the florid rhetoric used by Mr Wells in complaining about losing the Community Connector deal. But though I’m a newcomer to the ADKs, I’m not new to the issues and I recognize rhetoric cannily crafted to manipulate people’s sentiments and opinions on the matter.

    The real problem for those in favor of the Community Connector is not that a wonderful trail was lost, but that a wonderful snowmobile trail was lost. That’s not something that hikers, cyclists, snowshoers and skiers will cry about–and the forest denizens are always happiest with fewer noisy, smelly, toxic internal combustion motors racing through it. disrupting their lives and giving them one more thing to worry about brought by our species. Those in the lodging and food businesses claim they’ll lose most with the loss of that extensive snowmobile access, but let’s face it– tourism is only truly beneficial to the fairly small number of ADK citizens who are business owners.

    Those business owners, who of course have a right to pursue wealth and comfort, mainly tend to offer part time seasonal work to other people living here. Tourism simply isn’t an industry in this sort of climate that is able to provide much of a living or any job security to most of those effected by it. This is why so many of those owners of food and lodging industries are crying now about “people who don’t want to work”. Generally, I think people here are fed up with constant economic struggle, working those underpaid, part time/seasonal jobs that can disappear for weeks or months on end and leading to a scramble to make ends meet.

    In a region with the climate we have–which means a 2 month, July-Aug boom time, a couple of smaller spikes in business for leaf peeping and skiing, and plenty of downtime–tourism simply isn’t an industry that will ever feed enough residents reliably. So maybe it’s time to get over it. Maybe it’s time to use our much-vaunted intelligence with our expansive imaginations and powers of foresight to rethink the business of living here. Surely we, including the state and those private individuals with the most money, can come up with workable ideas for industries which both respect the necessary limits of our activities around Forever Wild, and are able to help feed and shelter all the people here instead of just the few of privilege who own tourist businesses.

    Meantime, people need to quit whining about the lost Community Connector. It’s over. Now is the time for moving forward, and putting energy into the future–with ALL of the people and other Lives of The Park in mind this time.

  22. Zephyr says:

    Bottom line is that DEC can’t simply create deals that go against the New York State Constitution. And, yes plenty of us have been arguing for years that these deals were unconstitutional. Frankly, I’m disgusted that local towns get to veto land purchases that benefit all New Yorkers–is this true? The state can’t add to the Forest Preserve if some local town objects? Also, anyone who has casually visited the Adirondacks for four or five decades as I have knows that most towns are vastly better off economically than they were in the past, despite the lack of some snowmobile superhighways. There are already thousands of miles of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks.

  23. Dave Mason says:

    I am not a fan of snowmobiles but, aside from noise, they don’t do much damage operating in winter on a layer of snow and ice so they don’t touch the earth. That’s arguably less impactful than hiker footfalls and horse hoofs. And with climate change, there will be fewer sleds in the future. The issue will melt away in time.

    But, I have a bigger concern.

    Trust between towns, the various environmental groups and the State has long been fragile. Various people worked in good faith on the Finch transaction. Or, it was assumed everyone was working in good faith. The snowmobile plan was born of these discussions.

    Then the Adirondack Council reversed its position, as Brian Wells explained. Sorry, you cannot be a trusted participant in a process one day, agree with the towns, then sue to overturn your agreement with them after you get what you want.

    This sort of behavior kills trust. It someone did that to you, would you trust them again? It is not the first time the Council has exhibited such behavior, but this time it’s in full public view.

    Whatever you think of snowmobiles, this behavior on the part of the Adirondack Council means it will be ineffective as an honest trusted participant in the regions’ issues. It’s too bad because we need good trustworthy green groups and the Council is the best funded of them all.

    Conservation success stories shine the brightest where all the parties share goals and trust each other even when they don’t agree. We have shared goals but, sadly, we don’t have trust.

  24. Penn L Hoyt says:

    Nice to see people having their eyes opened. The Adirondack Council has never been about the people who live in the Adirondacks. It has always been about putting a fence around it and finding ways to eliminate the people who live and work in the park. Remember the old story of the frog and the scorpion. The scorpion asked the frog to give him a ride across the river. The frog said no, for you will stab and kill me when we are in the water. The scorpion promised that he would not and why would he do that when it would kill them both. The frog then agreed and the started to swim across the river. Half way across, the scorpion strung the frog. The frog cried out as he was dying , “But you promised!” The scorpion replied “I can’t help it. It is who I am..”

  25. Joel Rosenbaum says:

    Where can I find the background research that supports this statement: “…. and bring much-needed tourism business to the shops, restaurants and hotels now at the center of our rural economy.”

    • Dan says:

      Just visit a snowmobile town and ask those shops, restaurants and hotels yourself and you’ll get your answer.

  26. Paul says:

    Given the circumstances perhaps the best move for the local towns now is to re-focus on opening up what were old roads that were not properly abandoned like the “old mountain road” case for this type of snowmobile use. They must have “connected” many of the communities in the past? This will require quite a lot of tree cutting but it would only be on “roads” and ROWs where that is consistent with Article 14. It’s funny in that there is not just talk of tree cutting in these cases but also culvert placement etc. These are things that protect the environment from this type of recreational use.

    • Tom Paine says:

      I agree with your statement Paul. Just a little problem with the old roads scenario. NYS illegally closed many roads through these now “Forever Wild” areas with a wink and a nod from the Environmental lobby. Now to reopen those roads would require a lengthy court battle. I think Jim McCauley’s suit against the illegal road closing for the Jack Rabbit cross country ski trail is a great start. It is just the beginning though. The corruption of Albany is boundless.

  27. Kristie Wicks says:

    Loved the Adirondacks while assisting mountain residents on a short term missions trip. Loved the area, history and people.

  28. Meredith says:

    “Balance” is the key concept here. Just imagine what would be happening if all forces were aligned against the “forever wild” clause? I think none of us would like it. Public discourse is a good thing. The very best we can hope for is that these conversations will continue.Thank you for explaining your point of view.

  29. Dave says:

    While working on and coming to this agreement, did anyone ever bring up the fact that it might not be legal or constitutional?

    I’m not a fan of snowmobiles on the Forest Preserve, but I do have sympathy for the towns here. They thought they had an agreement in place. However, if that agreement was fundamentally unconstitutional and couldn’t stand up to a legal challenge… that wasn’t much of an agreement, was it?

    Can you really blame the state for this? By all accounts it sounds like they thought it was solid. That they negotiated in good faith as well. I suppose you could argue that they should have known or anticipated this might not be legal.

    So the question remiains: Did anyone in that room… the towns, the state, the conservation groups… raise the concern that this agreement might not actually be constitutional?

  30. louis curth says:

    I wish that Republican Town Supervisor Brian Wells could have resisted the temptation to malign environmentalists with his distorted version of events, and just ended with his question; “who wins?”

    If he had, we readers might have been encouraged to pause our iPhones for just a bit, and reflect on our most urgent existential questions; Who wins – after greed and destruction have inflicted the death of a thousand cuts on our clean air and clean water and denuded the last remnants of our wild land environment? Who wins if Earth’s capacity to sustain life enters its death throes sooner rather than later as many scientists now predict?

    Republicans, including me, used to be proud defenders of conservation and the natural world. Sadly, the Republican Party of Town Supervisor Brian Wells and his fellows, seem to reject that honorable history. Instead, today’s Republicans have chosen the path of “alternative facts” and uncomfortable silence in response to their own party’s disgraceful behavior. How can anyone forget the willful lies that led to a violent insurrection at the nation’s Capitol last January sixth?

    Do Adirondack voters win if our elected Republicans no longer speak the truth? Do we win if they stay silent or beg every embarrassing question? Who wins if our elected leaders no longer feel bound by our constitution, or by their solemn oaths or, for that matter, even by the”forever wild” clause in our state constitution?

  31. Two questions : 1. What steps would a town have to take to remove themselves from the park? It is my understanding that when the blue line was extended to its current spot the residents had a opportunity to vote if they wanted to be part of the park. I’m talking about when the blue line was extended to the Edwards/ Fine town line. 2. What is the status of case Aditondack council vs town of Clare?

  32. Tom Philo says:

    Spot On Brian!

  33. Michael Calvert says:

    I visited the Adirondaks as a child twice, at age 8 and 13. Some of my most cherished childhood memories. Raquette Lake’s Green Point used to be owned by my grandfather. He taught us to love and protect wild life and the forest. It is a National Treasure!!! I visited, you live there. I wish you the best. Today too many folks are trying to tell too many folks how they should live, that doesn’t sound like Independence, freedom, or liberty to me. The US Constitution isn’t a document that constrains peoples behavior, it’s a document that constrains governments behavior, or at least that was its intent originally. Be blessed in your pursuits.

  34. Andrew DeTar says:

    The DEC needs to follow the their own laws or have them changed. I applaud Protect the Adirondack for making sure we don’t run roughshot over the laws or set bad precedent. Although some good points are made in this article the blame is misplaced.

  35. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Keith R Eygnor says: “It pains me to see such opposition to the land becoming public and connecting these towns…..Too many of our lands are being destroyed, by either careless people leaving trash or cutting down live trees. …..Our heritage is at stake. Ask yourselves, is there going to be a Adirondack park in years to come for others to enjoy or is it going to be destroyed…..”

    Most of what I read up to the above post is anti “Protect.” This is what we’ve come to! More pro snow-mobiler’s than pro-wilderness protection. How sad!

  36. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Al West says: “My opinion is that the Adirondack Council and the Protect The Adirondacks groups are very extreme radical groups with their true mission is to keep the public off of forest preserve lands..”

    ‘extreme radical!’ Why? Because their unselfish aim is to protect a limited, endangered, wild, untamed resource, no other place like it in the world….. with our progeny in mind?

  37. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Alfred Hadinger infers…”the environmental crowd”

    I smell a hint of bias in these few words. The world would be a far better place if there were more people who cared about this, our only home, if you ask me. I mean really! Which would you rather have, more people who unselfishly care about what’s left of our natural resources; or more people who find a sense of self in buzzing around on a motorized contraption.

  38. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Alex C. says: “Keep the forest where they are. There is no need to tear down trees so a business can sell overpriced hot dogs.”

    Or snowmobiles!

  39. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Steve Gloo says: “There was only one group of winners in this mess, and that was the lawyers and law firms involved. State taxpayers paid top dollar for lands the phony “ environmentalists” will keep them off of.”

    > The forest won Steve! Our progeny won! Phony “environmentalists?” They’re faking it is what you’re proposing. They don’t really care! Their warmth, sincerity, and genuine, unselfish noble efforts are all a show they’re putting on just to aggravate motorheads….aren’t they?

    The real residents, business owners and regular folks in the Adirondacks must come to understand that they turned their future over to a few loud, deep pocketed, outspoken individuals and groups who have agendas that don’t include them.

  40. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Steve Gloo says: “There was only one group of winners in this mess, and that was the lawyers and law firms involved. State taxpayers paid top dollar for lands the phony “ environmentalists” will keep them off of.” > The forest won Steve! Our progeny won! Phony “environmentalists?” They’re faking it is what you’re proposing. They don’t really care! Their warmth, sincerity, and genuine, unselfish noble efforts are all a show they’re putting on just to aggravate motorheads….aren’t they?

  41. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Randy says: “Oh well, thanks to the rich environmentalists that sit around with nothing better to do than complain. They lost my support when one of them whined about trail runners.”

    There’s plenty to complain about Randy! And surely they have better things to do then to keep spending much of their precious time trying to ward off yet another monster trying to take away more of what little is left. I suppose there might come a time when nobody cares anymore Randy, where we’ll be down to just pro industry automatons, anti-anything which has simplicity, virginity or serenity attached to it. The powers that be are working on it I assure you. They envision a world where all will say, “Yes sir!”

  42. Anthony says:

    The trees were described as sub alpine and they argued they took many years to grow to 1 or 2 inches in diameter. Sub alpine trees don’t grow at such low elevations. I’m not sure how this was overlooked by tree “experts”.

  43. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Keith R Eygnor says: “It pains me to see such opposition to the land becoming public and connecting these towns. After all, at one time the land belonged to the Indians and sadly it was taken from them. To open more up, to the public, and making it part of the park, is a gesture in the right direction.”

    Yes, we took it away from those who were here first, and we’re still taking it away Keith, and you’re all for it sounds like to me.

    “A gesture in the right direction.” But of course! Why would we stop doing what we’ve been doing all along…..making playgrounds out of what once were sacred grounds? That wouldn’t be American now would it? It’s all about us isn’t it?

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